Remembering Detroit Tigers Pitcher Paul Foytack

An old familiar face turned up in town a week or so ago, and he brought with him a lot of memories.

Paul Foytack represents an era when baseball existed in its purest form. During the 1950s and early 1960s the eccentric old ball parks were still bright and shiny new, and home teams knew how to play every eccentricity to their advantage. Most of the clubs still were rebuilding following War II and Korea, and, as a result, teams – except for the Yankees – were made up of wondrous admixtures of much-traveled veterans and anxious rookies.

In the ‘50s, managers had names like Stengel and Durocher and Dressen. Gourmet cuisine at the ball park meant hot dogs, popcorn, and beer. Most games were still played in thePaul Foytack Topps3 sunshine, and nobody dreamed of using a Designated Hitter. Pitchers swung the bat like everybody else, and they got thrown at like everybody else, too – probably as effective a means as ever was designed for keeping pitchers from deliberately plunking home run hitters. This was the world into which right handed pitcher Paul Foytack stepped at the tender age of 22.

A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Paul wore a Detroit uniform for almost all of the eleven-years of his major-league career. During the 1950s the Tigers didn’t field teams that were exactly world-beaters, but between 1956 and 1959, Paul managed to win 14 or 15 games each year anyway. In four years, he pitched 938 innings (including 51 complete games), and his aggregate ERA was 3.72 with a season low of 3.14. (His lifetime ERA is a respectable 4.14.) In 1961, coming off what had been a personal off-year, he racked up 11 victories in an intoxicating season during which the Tigers came oh-so-close to upsetting the damnYankees.

What made Foytack an effective pitcher? Good location (he never walked very many guys), a decent fastball, and hands the size of bunches of bananas. Paul not only didn’t tip off his pitches, could hide his grip on the ball just with the sheer size of his hand. Along with Frank Lary, Don Mossi, and Jim Bunning, Paul was part of as effective – and, thanks to Taters (Lary), probably as colorful – a starting rotation as the Detroit Tigers ever fielded.

A quintessential Tiger, Paul spent his last couple of years as an active player with the Angels, but on retirement he came back to his original ball club, pitching batting practice for the Detroiters throughout the ’70s.

Paul hangs his hat in Tennessee these days, but he still manages to come back to Detroit from time to time. We’re glad he does.

2 replies on “Remembering Detroit Tigers Pitcher Paul Foytack

  • Vaughn Merrill

    Now living in California, but and raised in Michigan I remember the middle of the pack Detroit Tigers and the wonderful old Tiger Stadium. As I grew up and started to drive I found myself attending many Tiger games and I fondly remember Paul Foytack and the rest of the rotation as they strived to live up to everyone’s expectations by winning a pennant. It didn’t happen until I was 28, but well worth the wait. One could always count on Foytack winning 15 games and I was always hoping he’d win 20. Greta memories.

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